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Happy New Year! 2011 is less than three weeks old, but after many months of economic turmoil, I’m already looking forward to seeing what this year will bring. According to a forecast issued today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. economy is expected to grow 3.2% this year and add 2.4 million jobs. The world’s leading central bankers also announced on Monday that the global economy is recovering faster than expected, particularly in emerging economies.

But as we all know, an optimistic economic outlook doesn’t translate into diminished risk—the risks just become different. With that in mind, there is a poll on the Supply Chain Expert Community home page that asks you what the biggest supply chain challenge for 2011 will be. Be sure to weigh in with your opinion!

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the “What’s Your Six-Word Job Description?” contest. We had so many great entries that we decided to create a top ten list that you can view here. Congratulations to Traci Nichols, who won a Toshiba Mini Netbook with the following entry: “Captain Vendor Defender,” referee and psychologist.

Speaking of contests, our latest one is already generating lots of great responses. Whether they're in your professional life or your personal life, all bad relationships have some common themes: frustration, annoyance, and stress, to name just a few. Playing on those commonalities, our new supply chain comedy video series, "New Kinexions," draws parallels between bad software and an annoying ex. We want you to get in on the fun, so our new contest on the Supply Chain Expert Community challenges you to complete the following sentence: "Software is like an annoying ex because..." To learn more about the contest and how you can win an Xbox 360 console with Kinect bundle, click here.

For those of us who work in supply chain management and its related industries, it can be a real challenge to easily describe to others what we do. Despite the fact that supply chain management touches each of our lives on a daily basis, it can often be difficult for a layperson to grasp--and for the experts to explain in a way that is easily understood.


Demystifying the industry, the Department of Supply Chain Management at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business created a great series of videos to explain exactly what supply chain management is. The format of the videos' information delivery is clear and concise--and, while there is s a healthy dose of whimsy involved, there's also elegance in its simplicity. The concepts are delivered in a way that is easily digestible (and humorous) without leaving you feeling as though it's been "dumbed down." The supply chain manager is repeatedly positioned as a superhero with a cape, someone that children aspire to become.


This type of message is exactly what the industry needs to attract more people to the field of supply chain management, a challenge that only looms larger as we enter 2011. A December 27, 2010 Fortune magazine article calls supply chain management "2011's hottest job you never thought of," in addition to stating that the industry currently has a shortage of qualified managers and "a decidedly unglamorous image."


While the article also states that supply chain management is "the complicated, behind-the-scenes work of getting goods from one place to another, on time and on budget," the video series from ASU proves that, while the work itself may be complicated, explaining the industry doesn't have to be. And, in my opinion, the videos also demonstrate that the industry's "unglamorous" tag is an unfair one. As a resident of Pittsburgh, I'm accustomed to counteracting unjust accusations of being unglamorous, so this battle is one I'm well prepared to wage.


Whether you're a typical consumer, a student contemplating a career in supply chain management, or a 30-year veteran of the industry, there's something to learn from these ASU videos--even if it's just how to explain to your mother what you do for a living. I know I'm planning to send the links to my own family!


Check them out for yourself on YouTube:


Module 1: What is Supply Chain Management?


Module 2: Buy It: Managing Supply


Module 3: Make It: Manufacturing and Operations


Module 4: Move It: Transportation and Logistics


Module 5: Sell it & Service It: Retail Considerations


Module 6: Supply Chain Integration


Module 7: Global Supply Chain Management


Module 8: Socially Responsible Supply Chain Management


Module 9: Business Processes


Module 10: Measuring Performance


Module 11: Quality Management


Module 12: Supply Chains and Information Technology